Myanmar today became the latest country to eliminate trachoma as a public health problem.

In 2005, trachoma – the world’s leading infectious cause of blindness – was responsible for 4% of all cases of blindness in Myanmar. By 2018 the prevalence of trachoma had fallen to a mere 0.008%, which is below the public health threshold.

The Fred Hollows Foundation, which contributed to the national program’s efforts through supporting surveys to assess the impact of disease control activities and writing the dossier for elimination, welcomed the announcement by the World Health Organization.

The number of people at risk from trachoma globally has declined by 91% from 1.5billion in 2002 to 136.9 million in May 2020.

Fred Hollows Foundation CEO Ian Wishart welcomed today’s announcement.

“Trachoma is a painful and potentially blinding disease which can be eliminated by following the WHO-endorsed SAFE strategy - surgery, antibiotics, facial cleanliness, environmental improvements,” Mr Wishart said.

“I want to congratulate everyone in Myanmar who has worked so hard to reduce the prevalence of trachoma so that it could be eliminated as a public health problem.”

In 2019, 95.2 million people around the world received antibiotics to clear the infection that causes trachoma and 92,622 surgeries were conducted to treat the late and blinding stage of this disease. 

Myanmar has become the 10th country since 2011, to have been validated by WHO as having eliminated trachoma as a public health problem. 

“The Fred Hollows Foundation has as one of its key priorities eliminating trachoma. We are one of the leading global eye health organisations working to end this dreadful disease.

“Since 2014 The Fred Hollows Foundation has supported the distribution of almost 100 million doses of antibiotics for trachoma in 6 countries and supported more than 235,000 trachoma surgeries.

“In 2019, we ensured more than 20 million people received antibiotics for trachoma and supported 21,842 surgeries – more than 20 per cent of the global trachoma program.”

The Fred Hollows Foundation’s work in Myanmar is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).